Tuesday, March 29, 2016

A sermon that didn't get shared elsewhere - Yelling At God

Once every month or so I get the great privilege of presiding and preaching at the Tuesday Afternoon 12-Step Recovery Eucharist at our Cathedral: Christ Church Victoria.  It's a quiet, healing, thoughtful Eucharist at which I normally offer a few thoughts... I'm sure I speak more than most visitors, but I've never really got the hang of 'reflection' - I seem to be much better at 'chatter'.

So here's my thinkings from last week...

Yelling at God

In this Holy Week – leading up to Good Friday and finally to Easter, we are confronted with the stark reality of human suffering. We see suffering in the last hours of Jesus (traditionally known as ‘The Passion’ – which comes from the Latin Passio, meaning suffering, or enduring) but we also get a glimpse, as in today’s Psalm, of the suffering that all of us go through, which is also a part of the reflection of this Holy Week.

In today’s Psalm the writer, we don’t know who it is, but many of the Psalms are traditionally considered to be the work of King David, is struggling.  He (or perhaps she) feels beset by those who speak and work against him or her.  “Rescue me, O God, from the hands of the wicked’ they call out to the Lord.  And then the writer goes into some detail about the troubles they are undergoing, where it feels that everyone is against them, trapping them, trying to trip them up.  Before ending with a commitment: “I will hope continually, and will praise you more and more.”

We see something of that in Jesus’ words today too, from the Gospel  of John. Jesus sees that the end of his ministry will be his death ‘unless a grain of wheat falls in the ground and dies it remains but a single seed’ he says, hinting at the end result of his own life.  He talks of his soul being troubled, but  also proclaims that God will be glorified even in this.

“And the point you want to make is?” you may ask.

There’s a strand within Christian faith that seems to want to say that everything is OK, it’ll all be alright in the end, it’s fine, God is in control – and, yes, we do believe that there is nothing in this world or any other beyond the touch and the presence of God. You can get the ‘it’ll all be fine’ message from certain parts of Scripture, maybe even from todays’ readings.  But more deeply than that, at the heart of both the Hebrew and Christian traditions there is a profound and powerful statement – that it’s OK not to be OK.  And it’s OK to let God know that.  Even, sometimes, to shout at God.  God can take it.
Our scriptures and our tradition are filled with people who cried out to God, who expressed their anger, their frustration, their pain, their loss, their devastation and despair.  The cry of Jesus from the Cross distils this into one powerful exclamation “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  That overwhelming feeling of abandonment coming from the one who was the personification of the divine, the Son of Man,  the one who we know as Son of God.

It’s OK to yell at God.

You don’t need my permission to do so – but sometimes we need to hear that.  God can take what we bring, good and bad, that we can express our deepest desires and our deepest fears. That we can know God in the light and in the darkness which is within and around us.

All things are within God.  That does not mean that God sends us all things or is trying to use all things, or that suffering is God’s way to teach us a lesson.  Rather the Scripture says that God is with us in the best and the worst that we experience. God is beside us, and understands the pain we feel, and feels it with us.

The message of Good Friday, when we remember the suffering and death of Jesus, is – at its heart – a message that says that God is not distant or remote, that God knows the true pain of suffering.  God is not detached, but involved intimately in all we go through.

So, it’s OK to yell, and to cry, and to feel all the things we feel when life is tough.  It’s not just OK to share that with God, God longs for us to reach out to God whatever we are going through.  And the message of our Bibles and of our faith is that God is with us. God loves us. God gives us the resources and the strength to get us through all of these things.  And then, as we pass through these difficulties, as we know the love and presence of God, then we can commit ourselves – as our Psalmist did, and as Jesus did in his own walk – to facing each day knowing that the love of God, the life of Christ and the power of the Spirit are with us in our pain as well as in our joys.

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